Yet another word on Henrik Lundqvist’s workload

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Quite a bit has happened since I penned this piece back at the end of December about Henrik Lundqvist’s workload.  At the time, the Rangers were sitting in fourth place in the Metro division, with a semi-comfortable grasp on a playoff spot and only four points out of first place in the division.  They were sitting in the first wild card position, with a healthy Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Kreider.  Lundqvist was on pace for 68 starts.

Since then, Shattenkirk has been knocked out of the lineup with a knee injury that required surgery (and basically every other defenseman, for that matter), Chris Kreider was diagnosed with a blood clot disorder that also required rib surgery.  The Rangers have plummeted in the standings and now sit in last place in the Metro.  Management has even come around, essentially preparing the fan base for a rebuild and writing a memo and holding a press conference signally that the team would be selling at the deadline.  Lundqvist is still on pace for 68 starts.

So, what is going on?  Well, Ondrej Pavelec did get hurt, and the team did win a few games after the announcement of the rebuild.  It still doesn’t really make sense, does it? Let’s talk it out.

Management and the coaching staff don’t appear to be on the same page

Or, do they? On the surface, it is easily explainable by saying that Alain Vigneault is coaching for his job next season and he is going to ride Hank for all he is worth in order to maintain some respectability in performance.  The front office has signaled rebuild, so their agenda should be getting as high a draft choice as possible in June, right?  Right.

Except, that there may be a little more in play here.  A big part of the memo that the organization sent out was a thinly veiled plea to keep fans engaged with the team on the ice.  Who is going to be the most marketable player remaining when the dust settles on the sell-off?  That’s right, Lundqvist.  He puts fans in seats and people want to see him when they come to the Garden.

Additionally, if the front office views some (or all) of these young defensive call-ups as meaningful parts of future rosters, it could benefit their development to have a safety net behind them who could bail them out of mistakes.  Also, getting Hank familiar with the kids for future seasons could help cement that relationship as the rebuild moves forward.

Those factors may be playing into the decision, or there could legitimately be a disconnect between the coaching staff and management.  Either way, the organization needs to look at the bigger picture here and not have Lundqvist’s body break down any faster than it otherwise would be.

Pavelec is hurt and Alexandar Georgiev lacks NHL experience

These things are both true.  However, Georgiev is on his entry level contract and controlled dirt cheap for two more seasons before becoming an RFA.  Doesn’t it make sense for the organization to use some pressure free games to see what they have in him?  Obviously, Benoit Allaire is getting a good look at him in practice but understanding his strengths and limitations in games can go a long way in determining whether they need to find a new backup for next season.  Worst case scenario, Georgiev is completely overmatched and the Rangers continue to lose.  Who cares?  Better draft lottery odds.  It’s a win-win.

For those of you (any of you?) asking, Igor Shestyorkin’s KHL contract runs through the end of next season.  He will not be coming to North America before then, but will likely join the organization for the ‘19-‘20 campaign.  This would give him two seasons of overlap with Lundqvist, and in a perfect world, he would have one season as a true backup and one as a platoon partner before taking over for good once Hank’s contract is up.

As for Pavelec, if he comes back healthy and Georgiev is sent down, he should play quite a bit to either 1) determine if he is worth re-signing for next season, or 2) allowing other teams to get a look at him so he can continue his NHL career.

Hank is a competitor and wants to be on the ice

Hank isn’t a first ballot Hall of Famer by accident.  He has carried a starter’s workload since his rookie season and wants to be on the ice.  Every game.  He wouldn’t be the competitor and elite player he is if he didn’t.  That decision, however is not up to him.  Clearly, management went to Lundqvist and explained their position on a rebuild, and he bought in.  This is no different.  Explaining that he needs to save those bullets for a season in which the team has a chance to contend is not a difficult message to send.


I have to think that is a combination of all of these factors leading to Hank’s workload issues at the moment.  Regardless, the situation needs to change, as no good can come from a soon-to-be 36-year-old goaltender playing upwards of 70 games for a team that is not going to make the playoffs.  It just doesn’t.  The Rangers have 24 games remaining, including five before the trade deadline.  Realistically, Hank should be playing no more than 12 of the remaining games.  This would still put his season workload at 60 starts, which is fine.  The team has five remaining back-to-backs this season and Hank should not appear in both games even once.  There is no good reason for that to happen.

So, what do all of you think?  Do you think Hank’s workload is an issue or should he be there as a safety net for the kids?  Sounds off in the comments below.

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  • Management and Coaching Staff not on the same page has been a common theme the last few years, and continues through this.

    It started with paying big for Yandle as the puck moving Dman only to see him not used by AV as anything more than a 3rd pair guy with limited PP minutes.
    E Staal was brought in (which many did not agree with but is proving he still had a lot left in the tank) and AV used him as a 3rd line winger and was constantly shuffling the lines giving Staal zero comfort in a new system.
    More puck moving Dmen were brought in this year but the notion of Defensive minded Dmen continued to hold the bigger grip.

    AV relies on a Defensive schemes that requires a goalie to play at top level night in and night out. Not having a goalie of Hanks caliber in net (or a goalie playing up to Hanks caliber ) shows the warts in the defensive system.

    Continuing to play Hank while the management staff has publicly announced they are looking to rebuild shows that AV is coaching for his job and not concerned about the long term future of this team.

    • Well said. AV has run his course. His defensive system sucks no matter what players execute it, and he’s been focused on day-to-day survival since the horrible start to the season. Can’t wait for Vigneault to be a coach somewhere else.

  • I agree that Hank should not be playing so much. And for all the reasons you state. However, I would add one or two more – as I did in the previous thread.

    It has been a very long time since Georgiev has lost a hockey game. The current Ranger back-up is a hot goalie and he is totally being wasted. If the Rangers won’t play him, they should bring up Nell or Halverson and let Georgiev take the Wolfpack to the playoffs.

    As for the present, I suspect that the Rangers lose nothing bay putting Georgiev in. The reason Lundqvist is going to the HOF is not that he is the best goalie in hockey on any given day. He is consistent. He is typically better than all but the hottest goalies and the hot goalies change from year to year, even month to month, week to week. The Hamburglar was better than Hank for a month; Hank was better than the Hamburglar for a lifetime – and so on. Hank was better than Georgiev two months ago, will be a year from now, and probably will be a month from now. But he wasn’t a week ago.

  • Let Hank get his 30 and then bench him/shut him down the rest of the way. Absolutely zero reason not to see where Georgiev is now, hell Vegas ended up playing their 5th string goalie for a number of games at one point …. if Georgiev is overmatched, so be it.

  • Any season ticket holders listen to their voice message from the Rangers reminding you to pay for next seasons tickets? It’s always the Captain making the recording. This time it was Lundqvist. What does that tell you?

  • I would like to see Hank get to 30 wins as well. How many game will he have play to get 7 more he needs the way the team is playing in front of him? My thought is shut him down send him on vacation so he’ll be fresh for next season and a better team up front in the way of a solid defense

  • Actually, Justin, that was 972 words. Ahem.

    A word, however, that would apply, is “ridiculous”.

    Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. I’ll let myself out.

  • Shesty:

    Who is our favorite NHL team? “Rangers.”
    Who is your childhood idol? “Henrik Lundqvist.”

    One year stop gap for the Rangers and Shesty will be here to split time with the King in 2019-20.

  • My friend just texted me that Gorton told Brooks that Andersson and Chytil will not play enough games up here to burn ELC years.

  • Once I see the article is written, I just click. Never disappointed.

    But now Brooks reports Georgiev is out sick and they recalled Halverson. Looks like they were going to do what you suggested but now what? Do they play Halverson?

    • ugh, meant to say when I see an article written by JUSTIN, I automatically read. Not enough cafe this morning 😉

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